John Ellis

News

The Old and the News

 

It's been about 8 years since I posted any news...a year after the first release, I'm ready for another go around.

 

Closing out the Summer

 

This summer has been an interesting journey - in fact pretty much all of 2010 has!  I've branched out into solo acoustic performing with the appearances at the West End Farmers Market.  Solo-acoustic work is not something that I ever had a strong desire to do.  But, as with many things, now that I'm used to it, I have found that it has its own appeal (full electric band is still my favorite).

The acoustic work makes you more accessible to people especially in an environment like the farmers market where people casually stroll near you.  The set up is so simple, particularly when you're not dealing with amps and speakers.  And when people enjoy the music it's for no other reason than the song that they hear - no special effects or gimmicks to make things seem more than they are.

So the year has been a time for growth as a performer.  In addition to the solo excursions, I have taken many opportunities to perform with fellow songwriters and performers.  You can learn a lot by performing with others and watching how they work.  This weekend was especially good in that department.  I took the opportunity to perform with good friend Gary Shaver and his band Spectrum, then I backed up the outstanding vocalist and songwriter Darryl Ellyson at a separate gig.

The creative energy is really flowing these days.  I have too many songs going at once, but I should have some of them complete soon.  It's really great to be writing and see what comes out of the ideas in my head.  And of course it would be wonderful to complete the CD project.

 

New Recording Complete for 'Brother'

 

Well it's been too long coming, but finally the day has arrived.  I had some time off over the holidays, so I spent a small portion wisely and worked on the recording for 'Brother'.  It's a song that was written a few years ago and tweaked a lot before recording.  Then, of course, the recording was a stop and start process over a few months.  It doesn't make sense how long it takes to record a 3 or 4 minute song, but when you hear something that doesn't work, you have to re-record quite a few times.  I'm not at the point of trying to doctor the recordings by replacing one note, or cutting and pasting the rhythm guitar throughout the song, so I re-record whole segments when needed to correct a portion of the song.  I won't say there won't ever be a time for the high tech substitutions for playing segments in their entirety, but for now, I'm trying to make sure you hear what was actually played.

My drums are midi drums, but I design the patterns myself and get the arrangement just the way I like it, then convert the midi to audio.  One of these days I'll have an actual drummer do the parts, but for now it's a much simpler process to create my own tracks - and I rather enjoy the creative process too!

So as you can see, it's been a lot of work other than just thinking about what I want to sing and play.  I still may go back and tweak a couple of things, but for now I'm satisfied with the results.  The quality of the recording of the vocals is the best I've done so far thanks to some experimentation with microphone placement and using the right room in the house.

Please listen and feel free to comment on my new 'Blog' page or send an e-mail through my 'Contact' page.  And don't forget the e-mail list if you want to get the newsletter when I send it out.  E-mail addresses are kept confidential.

Thanks for listening!

 

Weekend full of music!

 

It's been quite a productive weekend for me.  I guess the weather didn't hurt.  While I would often be tempted to be outside in such wonderful weather, I think that the little bit of time I spent in the mild climate just gave me the energy to get some things done inside.

Although I haven't finished another full recording yet, I made some wonderful progress.  'Brother', which is one that I have been finishing in bits and pieces for quite a while, is coming along nicely.  I didn't spend any recording time on it this weekend, but after reviewing what I've already done and playing with the mix, I have found that I'm rather pleased with the progress.  I'm going to re-record the lead and tweak what I'm doing in a few spots.

Probably the most exciting thing was a succesful recording of the rhythm guitar for a new recording.  I have not recorded an acoustic guitar with open mics in a long time, since I usually play electric and do just fine with USB equipment connected to the computer.  But feeling a bit bold, and hoping that things would work out, I found a sweet spot in my house to do acoustic recording.  Usually recording in a home causes the guitar to be rather weak if you don't acoustically treat the room, but I've learned that if you can find a small space in your home and get the mic set up correctly, you can get a respectable recording.  It's a rather cramped spot, so hopefully I'll find another location when I want to do more complex acoustic work.  The working title of the song is 'Autumn' and I'll either use the acoustic guitar out front or back in the mix as additional color.  I successfully recorded the rhythm part in one continuous performance with only 5 or 6 takes.  Unusually quick for me!

The creative energy continues to provide lyrics here and there, so now I must set aside time to pull things together, finish the last line or two of some songs and move along on older material that I want to complete.  A few new guitar riffs are in the works too.  Hopefully I'll find the creativity to add other parts to the riffs and get some new music going.

Until next time....take care.....

 

A great songwriter's meeting!

 

Tonight's meeting of the Virginia Organization of Composers & Lyricists (VOCAL - based in Richmond, Virginia) was fantasic!  We had several new people show up, some of whom had enrolled as members on the website.

It was VOCAL's quarterly In-house Open-mic with a great attendance and about 10 of the songwriters participating.  We had some pop, boogie piano, country, instrumental guitar and rock.  The performances from new members as well as one of our long time members gave many surprises to the evening.  It was such a great variety.  The broad range of participation and different styles inspired me creatively, the way I was inspired when I first joined the group.  I hope our new friends return still inspired to share their work.

I wish I could have had my new song ready to participate, but I just couldn't get the last few lyrics finished over the weekend, so I'll have to write something new for the next one.  Well, back to my current projects for now!

 

New song posted...FINALLY!

 

After many hours of fidgeting and re-working, I've finally done about all I can do to my latest recording 'The Stranger'.  If you've been to a live performance, you've heard the song before, but this is my 'studio' version that I hope to release on a CD soon.

I've had quite the streak of creative energy lately, with many new song ideas and many new thoughts about things I've already started.  Now I can get back to work on completing the other recording in my stack, 'Brother'.  I'll be working on this song while getting the ground work laid for some of these new songs.  I have one brand-spanking-new song that's almost written, which came to me out of the blue about a month ago.  More on that later.

Please let me know what you think of the new song.  Leave a comment on the Guestbook if you like.

 

Can't wait for September

 
I'm really looking forward to September's VOCAL Showcase performance. It will be fun to perform for my fellow songwriters again and for the great crowds that have been showing up. The VOCAL showcases are becoming quite an event. For the past three or four months, the turnout has been solid and the performances have been the top quality that we know we can deliver. I was blown away by August's performers, Sarah Kane and David Atkins. Sarah is new to VOCAL and she made an outstanding debut. I'm looking forward to her next performance. With a voice that is passionate and powerful, she really can move an audience with her original songwriting and performance skills. David Atkins is a VOCAL pro who has been away for a while due to a long list of creative events and family life, but boy, he's been saving some energy for VOCAL. With some solid crowd favorites and some songs that were new to my ear, David gave the audience something to remember, with full backing tracks, great vocal abilities and some smooth fretwork. I hope to see you there September 21, where you'll be treated to another great VOCAL artist, Steve Nuckolls and a free show from The Taters! You can't beat that! A great way to start off the week!
 

June/July Update

 
I can't believe how long it's been since I posted anything to the website. The past two months flew by like a cool breeze on a hot day! Thanks to everyone who has visited the website in July. The visits are growing and I hope that continues. It would be great if you'd leave some comments on the 'guestbook' or visit the 'contact info' to send me an e-mail. Since I last updated this journal, I have made a couple of guest appearances (I will add those later), performed some short sets on the VOCAL Showcase stage as well as opening some shows for a local band. So the music has not stopped, it's just been blended with all the other things going on in my personal life. In addition to the guest appearances, I have done some open mic performing to meet other musicians and keep myself in front of a crowd. It's been a good experience and has led to some of the other performances I mentioned above. I will get back to recording soon (in the next week). I have to pick up where I left off, which means I have to rehearse a little to remember what I wanted to play, then I need to record it. I think the results will be worth the delay. I've started work on another song, tried to add some more music to a previous instrumental number and just tried to keep the ideas fresh in my mind. Hopefull I can hit a 'recording streak' in the near future and get a lot done. Send some positive energy my way to make sure it happens! I'll be back soon....
 

Wrong kind of Funk!

 
I was into some funk today...not the good, groovin' James Brown funk....it was the 'can't get nothin' done, can't get my head straight' funk. I got everything set up to record today, but the fingers didn't seem to cooperate and the creativity seemed absent. After struggling for an hour or so to get something accomplished, I just took a break. Went out to get something to eat, hoping to move my mental state out of the negative zone by being around some people and just seeing something outside of my recording equipment. When I got back from my outing, I slept for a bit, then woke up refreshed and ready to go at it again. While I wasn't able to achieve all of my goals today, the day ended up being fairly productive. I think I now have the drum track to 'Brother' complete and I've started the lead guitar part - I haven't tried the vocal yet. The song that had me frustrated 'The Stranger' may be complete now, except that I want to re-record the vocal (is that the same as incomplete? I'll decide later...). There's some really awkward parts on the vocal track that I think must be corrected, because they stick out like a sore thumb. I was reading my last post from April and had to laugh a bit. So much for 'laser beam focus' - it's been a quick month since I posted that entry. While I've kept my focus on music, by going to open mics, staying involved in my songwriter's group and rehearsing for solo events, it's been difficult to get time to record. I was so glad to have today set aside just for recording and arranging - I didn't have to think about one other thing than getting tracks laid down. That's why it was so frustrating when the day started off with a less than great recording session. I was about ready to give up, when I decided the best thing to do was take a break and clear my head. Sometimes doing nothing for a little while really helps you get the most out of the day, rather than struggling with something that you can't get finished. I'm glad I made the decisions I did - I guess that was a good lesson to take from today. I also got a reminder that your expectations can set you up for disappointment and/or failure. You have to be able to extract the good out of a seemingly bad situation and be ready to move on to something else and come back later with a fresh perspective. If I can get a few more hours of recording time in this week, I think I'll be able to post the songs.
 

It's been too long....

 
.....since I made any progress on the recordings. That will change over the next two weeks. Life has been so busy lately with the tax deadline, and working on getting gigs and meeting musicians, that creating new music just ended up pushed to the side. But with so much accomplished over the past few weeks, I'm looking forward to laser beam focus on creating and recording over the next two weeks. We'll see how it goes. And adding a new gig to the calendar helps with the motivation!
 

Weekend Update

 
Not too much to report for this week. I've been busy talking to other musicians, taking care of things at home and working on the business side of the music. I hope to get a little time to make progress on the recording this upcoming week. I will update my news page as soon as I get something done. One other thing I hope to accomplish this week is to get a 'contact' page on my website. I would love for people who visit to be able to write to me and let me know what they think. For now the 'Guestbook' is available. Consider leaving a comment. No e-mail address is required, just enter text. If you do enter your e-mail address, it does not appear on the page and the only e-mail you'll get is a 'Thank You' from me and I'll send my next newsletter.
 

Recording Project Update

 
It's been a very productive week. I had a nice surprise when I reviewed what I had recorded last year. Because I had done so much already, I was able to work on three songs this week. I have to finish mixing for 'In My Place', but the recording was complete when I stopped the project last year. I guess I just didn't realize how much I had accomplished. Unless I run into a snag, it should be posted on www.myspace.com/virginiaroadsong this weekend. 'The Stranger' is all recorded except for the lead guitar solo. I've done several takes, but just haven't 'nailed' it yet. With a little luck this will also be ready this weekend. I did a rough take of the guitar part last year for the song 'Brother'. This week I finished about 80% of the work on the drum track. I use midi drums in my recording software to develop my own drum tracks note for note, so it can take a while. It would be great to finish the drum track this weekend, but I don't think I'll have that much time. With only a rhythm guitar and an unfinished drum track, there is still a long way to go before this song is complete. I'm excited about getting this complete in the near future. One of the great things about recording is that you sometimes surprise yourself. While you always hear things that you don't like, once in a while you hear something that you do like, but didn't realize you had played while recording. That gives you a boost and encourages more creativity. Now I'm looking forward to finishing ideas that are in progress and starting the recording process for those songs. Stay tuned....
 

Getting the Job Done.....

 
....that used to be the name of one of my songs that is now titled 'In My Place'. But I have lived up to the old name today. Fortunately I had made more progress during previous recording sessions than I realized! Today I was able to get two songs about 95% done. I have to finish up the mixing process and I really think I'll have one on the Internet by next week, if not both of them. I'm really looking forward to seeing if these recordings have an impact on listeners. Please consider leaving a comment on the 'guestbook' if you see or hear something that you want to talk about.
 

Time to Get to Work

 
I spent a little time this week working on the CD design for the new demo with Point of Rock. It's a recording we did from a performance last year. Other than that, I've been spending some time with family and practicing scales to get back in shape. I'm ready to make some progress this weekend on my studio project as well as the demo. I'm looking forward to getting another song on the website. It might be just a sample, but I'll post the full version on MySpace. Until next time....
 

Web Updates

 
The recording process is slow going, but I hope to make a little more progress this weekend. The home life has taken more time lately than I had planned, but I should be able to put some good time into the recordings soon. While taking care of home business, I've also spent some time working on the website and launching my YouTube channel

www.youtube.com/virginiaroadsong

Now if I only had some videos on the channel. I'll add that to the project list! Stay tuned....
 

In the Studio

 
Currently I'm working on finishing up old recordings that have been left incomplete for one reason or another. Now that I've got the home PC set up for recording again, I'm aiming to complete at least 5 to 7 songs early 2009. We'll see how it goes!
 

Welcome

 
Thanks for seeking out this website. I'll put as much information as I can on these pages and try to keep you informed of what I'm up to. You'll find a variety of sounds in the range of rock & blues as I add new songs. Maybe one of these days I'll even conjure up a jazz blend! Anyway, I hope you'll find it interesting.
 

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